1. Home
  2. Small Dog Training
  3. Dog "Leave It" Command

How to Teach the "Leave It" Command

By Angad Singh |Last updated 02-06-2020

The Leave it command may save your dog's life and it's not hard to teach with these four steps to success.

Just imagine a scenario where a bathroom or toilet seat cleaner is placed on the top shelf of your bathroom. Then

You hear glass shatter as the bottle hits the floor. Before you realize it, your dog has already began investigating, first smelling and then licking.  

Teach Your Dog the "Leave It" command

All the harmful chemicals that were meant to kill the germs and bacteria can cause catastrophic damage to your own loved doggy or puppy. 

How can you avoid this nightmare of a situation? We at Small Dog Place will help you to teach your dog the “leave it” command that you can use not only in these emergencies but also in your daily routine when you don’t want your dog to do something.

This command is handy when your dog, be it any breed, decides to nibble on anything inappropriate whether in your home, on a walk or in the dog park.

A well-trained dog that understands the "Leave it” command will never get into trouble eating something that he should not have, be it a piece of candy on the sidewalk, your half-eaten sandwich, or the unthinkable. (i.e., their own poop)

But the more critical and useful any dog training command happens to be, the longer it may take for them to master the skill.

Patience and hard work on your part will pay dividends later on when your dog shows mastery and can demonstrate the task regularly.

Supplies You Will Need

Treats (two different types)

Treat Bag or holder (optional)

Clicker (optional)

Leash for outdoor work

Step by Step Guide: Teach Your Dog the ‘Leave It’ command 

Step 1

A small dog is anticipating a treat after performing a Leave it command

Start training the ‘leave it’ command by holding your dog’s favourite treats in your hand and keeping his not so favorite treats in the other hand.

After showing him that you have the treats in your hands, close your hand and make a tight fist that your dog will not be able to open it easily.

Your dog will most probably try his level best to open your fist but do not allow him to do so.

Once he gets tired of trying and stops his efforts, mark the behavior using a clicker or a mark word, such as “Yes,” and reward him with ‘not so favorite’ treats that you have kept in your other hands. 

Never open your fist and give him the treats from the same hand that you had closed in the process as that can ruin the whole purpose.

Repeat the Step 1 several times till your dog stops noticing the treats in the closed fist and once you feel that your dog is not interested in your closed fist, give the ‘leave it’ command before presenting him with your closed fist.

Step 2:  Leave It Command

A dog is being exposed to a treat hidden in a person's fist.

Move one level up now. When you present your dog with the closed fist, he will not be interested in the treats or the fist.

Now start opening your fist a little, and you will feel that he has suddenly found some interest in your hands and those treats and try his level best to take advantage of that situation and grab those treats.

Just when you open your palm, give the ‘leave it’ command. When you see your dog trying to get his favorite treats, close the palm again and let him try.

As soon as your dog stops going after the treats after you have closed the fist, mark his behavior using a clicker or a mark word, such as “Yes,” and reward him with the treats in your other hand.

Again, keep in mind that you do not have to give him the treats from the hand you have been holding closed since Step 1.

Step 3:  Leave It Command

A small Shih Tzu Dog is learning to "leave it" command.

When you feel that your dog understands the leave it command now, it is time to increase the difficulty and move the treats on the floor.

Place the treats on the floor and place your hands over the treats covering the treats in the way that your dog would not be able to grab them. 

Give the ‘leave it’ command and wait for your dog to get bored and as soon as he understands that he will not be able to get those treats and stop his efforts, mark and reward the behavior by giving him treats from the other hand.

Repeat this till the time you feel that you are getting some control over the ‘leave it’ command. 

Increase the difficulty again by showing him the treats on the ground and then quickly covering treats using your hands and not letting him snatch his favorite treats from your palm.

Then while giving the ‘leave it’ command, lift your hand away from the treats giving him a chance to grab them. 

Just when you feel that he stops trying and does not want to put in any more efforts to get the treats, mark and reward him. 

Step 4:  Leave It Command

This dog is learning the "leave it" command

Tie your dog with a leash in the backyard, inside your house or even any park.

Keep the leash short but give your dog enough room so that he can move here and there without any strain. For this method, you can use both treats and toys. 

You can even choose one as per your personal choice. Now, hold the leash tightly with your one hand and toss the toy or treat in the air in such a way that it drops on the floor at enough distance that your dog cannot reach and grab the toy. 

If your dog pulls the leash or bites it continuously when you take him out for a walk, and it makes you very uncomfortable, learn How to Stop Leash Biting behavior in your dog.

Keep giving the ‘Leave It’ command and wait for your dog to get bored and stop putting in efforts to get the treat or toy.

Mark the good behavior using a clicker or mark a word and reward the dog using his favorite treats without letting him grab the tossed up toy or treat.

These 4 Steps will definitely make your dog learn and get a command over the ‘Leave It’ command if you practice them consistently and repeatedly.

Be patient and keep doing the hard work and you will be able to teach your dog the ‘leave it’ command.

Leave It Command Pin

About Janice (author and voice behind this site)

Having lived with dogs and cats most of her life, Janice served as a veterinary technician for ten years in Maryland and twelve years as a Shih Tzu dog breeder in Ohio.

Her education includes undergraduate degrees in Psychology with a minor in biology, Early Childhood Education, and Nursing, and a master's in Mental Health Counseling.

She is a lifelong learner, a dog lover, and passionate about the welfare of animals. Her favorite breed for over 50 years has been the Shih Tzu, but she has also lived with Poodles, Maltese, Yorkshire Terriers, Beagles, English Bulldogs, Carin Terriers, and a Cocker Spaniel.

When not writing, reading, and researching dog-related topics, she likes to spend time with her eight Shih Tzu dogs, husband, and family, as well as knitting and crocheting. She is also the voice behind Miracle Shih Tzu and Smart-Knit-Crocheting

Does This Article Deserve Your Thumbs Up?

We always appreciate your support and encouragement.  Your thumbs up means so much to us.  Please like this article.

If you find this page or any page on Small Dog Place Helpful, or useful in anyway, I'd love it if you would click the small heart found on the bottom right of each page.

You can also share or bookmark this page -- just click on the:

More Training Commands To Teach Your Dog

If you enjoyed this article, why stop there?  Check out a few of our other easy to learn dog training articles.

Teach Your Dog These Five Basic Commands:  Sit, Stay, Down, Watch, and Come.

Teach Your Dog to Walk Nicely on a Leash

Train Your Puppy to Accept Grooming

Train Your Dog to Use a Doggie Door

Brain Training Using Games

Author bio : I am Angad Singh,  a passionate dog trainer and a dog parent from last 3 years :). I am very passionate on training variety of dogs and how dogs behave under different conditions. 

10 Mistakes People Make When Choosing a Dog Breed

Free Monthly Newsletter

Sign Up for Our Free Newsletter and get our Free Gift to You.

my  E-book, The Top 10 Mistakes People Make When Choosing a Dog (and how to avoid them)